Sister Chris Mura, DC, a Hispanic outreach and pastoral care worker with St. Mary’s Hospital in Amsterdam, N.Y., helps the frightened strangers in a strange land navigate the healthcare system.
The following article was originally posted on the Catholic Health Association of the United States website by Julie Minda. View full story here.
It was an encounter in the emergency department about four years ago that convinced Sister Christine Mura, D.C., of the need to shift her focus as a Hispanic outreach and pastoral care worker with St. Mary’s Healthcare in Amsterdam, N.Y.
Called to assist a patient who knew virtually no English and who was in crisis, Sister Mura found her lying on a gurney, bereft and crying. She spoke Spanish to the woman, whose name is Martha. “I learned that she’d just had her second miscarriage in a year and couldn’t communicate with the healthcare providers. She couldn’t ask whether she could have more children.”
Sister Mura comforted Martha, whose last name is not being used at her request. Over the ensuing months Sister Mura got to know Martha and her husband — both of whom are undocumented residents of the U.S. — and she found her a Spanish-speaking provider who was taking uninsured patients. Based on test results, the doctor reassured Martha, who was in her late 30s, that she could conceive children.
Sister Mura has since helped her navigate the healthcare system during two subsequent pregnancies, and served as her labor coach when she gave birth to two daughters — the 3-year-old is Sister Mura’s godchild. Her baby sister was born June 11. (Martha has a 16-year-old daughter who lives in her native Mexico with Martha’s mother, sister and other relatives. Martha crossed the border in 2008 to join her husband and brother in working in Amsterdam’s dairy farm industry. She said she feared for her daughter’s safety in the crossing, and so she left the girl at home with relatives.)
Before meeting Martha, Sister Mura’s outreach to the Hispanic community had principally consisted of providing general and medical translation and pastoral care to Spanish-speaking Puerto Ricans living in downtown Amsterdam.
(The city’s now-downsized carpet and textile industry had attracted Puerto Ricans decades ago; they’ve since maintained a strong presence.) Through her experience with Martha, Sister Mura realized she also needed to seek out the most vulnerable Hispanics in the region — undocumented immigrants laboring in the dairy farm industry and living on the outskirts of Amsterdam. She now also assists these workers in navigating and accessing the health care system.She links them to social services, dental care, legal services, and spiritual support — whatever they require.
St. Mary’s, which was founded by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet, created the Hispanic outreach and pastoral care position nearly six years ago at the urging of then-Vice President of Mission Integration Sister Danielle Bonetti, CSJ, who wanted St. Mary’s to bridge the language and culture gap between the hospital and Amsterdam’s large Puerto Rican community. Sister Bonetti traveled in the same circles as the leaders of Sister Mura’s community, the Daughters of Charity, and she asked those women if the Daughters had a Spanish-speaking sister available to work with the Puerto Rican population. They recommended Sister Mura, who was serving in pastoral ministry for Spanish speakers at several Philadelphia parishes at the time, and had just taken a health care interpreter course. The opportunity with St. Mary’s was a perfect fit, said Sister Mura. Her community donates her services and funds some of her clients’ medical and other expenses. The Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet and the Daughters of Charity are among the congregations that founded facilities that are now members of Ascension Health. Ascension Health is the parent of St. Mary’s.
Read the full story about her service to this “hidden population”.